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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, April 21, 2006

My view: 'Destroyer's Rubies' by Destroyer

By Joshua Masayoshi Huff
Special to The Advertiser

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5 Outstanding: Add it to your collection now. A must-have.

4 Great: Buy it or rent it definitely listen to it.

3 Good: Worth listening to despite some flaws.

2 Fair: Unless you're a fan of the group or singer, don't bother.

1 Poor: Save your money (and your ears).

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CD: "Destroyer's Rubies" by Destroyer; Merge Records

Release: Feb. 21

Style: Pop

My take: Destroyer, led by Dan Bejar of the Canadian indie-pop supergroup The New Pornographers, is a band built around pushing boundaries. Consider the band's name, which instills visions of death metal in the minds of possible listeners, possibly destroying the willingness of most to give the band a chance. Those who do decide to listen in will find a band that sounds like the Fiery Furnaces or the Decemberists but is ultimately much more rewarding.

Destroyer's latest effort, "Rubies," is a monument to writing and musicality. Bejar has a flair for dramatic lyrics, and much of "Rubies" sounds like a Broadway musical whose primary character is looking for his lost love but is also chasing after precious gems and other treasures.

It's hard to pick individual stand-out tracks on this album not because there aren't any but because every song is an absolute gem. The opener, "Rubies," starts off acoustic and almost sounds like a song by the band America, but soon enough, Bejar's backing band thunders in and creates an electric song with a nautical feel which is fitting, because the song tells of a sailor who sings "typical me/I gave my cargo to the sea/I gave the water what it always wanted to be." The song goes by much quicker than the listed 9-minute, 30-second runtime. In "Rubies," Bejar also includes the first of many references to his past records; he sings "this night marches on," which you may not take for an overt mention unless you've heard the line "Never had to choose Your Blood versus Your Blues" in "Your Blood" ("This Night" and "Your Blues" are other Destroyer albums).

The lyrical flair of Destroyer is embodied in "A Dangerous Woman Up to a Point," in which Bejar sings, "Have I told you lately that I love you?/Did I fail to mention there's a sword hanging above you?/Those who love Zeppelin will soon betray Floyd." The lines look nonsensical on paper but come off marvelously on the record. "European Oils" is also a stand-out track on an album full of breath-taking songs.

While Destroyer isn't the first band to straddle the line between art and art for art's sake, it does it very well. Destroyer is never pretentious and every line, regardless of how obscure or avant garde, has a larger meaning in the grand scheme of "Rubies." The band has put out decent albums in the past, but none approaches the sheer genius that is "Rubies."

This perfect album will be noted as the best record of 2006 (yes, the year is young, but I'm willing to say that nothing will approach this album in terms of excellence), and I believe it is the best pure pop album since the Beach Boys' "Pet Sounds." Some may see that claim as music-reviewer hyperbole, but "Rubies" is a grand experiment in art that spares no extravagance and should go down as one of the best pop records in history.

Joshua Masayoshi Huff, a graduate of Moanalua High School, attends George Washington University in Washington, D.C.